As I mentioned here in the last day or so, I had wanted to address something brought up in a comment to one of my posts and I didn't have the chance this week to write about it thoughtfully. Time is permitting, finally, and I wanted to get on with it. OK, the post in question was this one
, where I linked to a report from the Kuwati News Service
about terrorists abducting an Iraqi police officer, drove him into a neighborhood in broad daylight, and proceeded to behead him as a way of telling people their views on Iraqis who aren't seeing things their way. Rather than hearing about this
kind of behavior from our media and members of the left, Americans instead get to hear about how every member of the US military command from the colonel on site up to President Bush (with a quick stop at the SecDef's office) should immediately resign over the horrific brutality of the inhuman treatment of prisoners at Abu Ghraib. The title of the post deals with this particular phenomenon: equivalence. Some soldiers at Abu Ghraib - acting on their own and in a fashion our military does not
condone - put a leash on a prisoner and put women's panties on the head of another. This behavior w a s w r o n g
and no one is seriously claiming otherwise. Period. Where I draw the line is, simply put, that the scope and magnitude of that wrong comes no where near being of a magnitude that you can even speak in the same breath of these two events: a beheading versus what amounts to a fraternity pledge week prank.
Read that again. The behavior at Abu Ghraib by our soldiers was wrong. It's no where near an equivalent wrong to the act of beheading someone. Whether that be an Iraqi policeman, a truck driver, a satellite sales engineer, or Margaret Hassan of CARE. My point in my previous post was to say that I found the immediate reaction of members of our media and of the left to meet mention of beheadings not with agreement that such actions are unjustifiable, but with pointed fingers and chants of "Abu Ghraib!" to be completely out of line. To hold that up in immediate reply to any mention of the terrorists' actions is to use Abu Ghraib to dismiss the terrorists' means and disregard what is really brutal and inhuman treatment. I think the media should have carried the story of the Iraqi policeman's death with equal vigor, if not more so.
So, that's what the post was about. Read it for yourself. Here's the comment I received in reply, courtesy Bob James:
|::::::::||Stop trying to excuse the crimes of American soldiers by pointing out the heinous acts of a small segment of Islamic extremists. It won't wash. What our soldiers did was wrong, period, and they knew better, no matter what anyone else does.|
And you should know all about hand-wringing apologists, there are enough of them excusing this misbegotten war on the Right. But no, you won't say anything about the fact... FACT that this war isn't being fought the way it should have been because our leadership fucked it up from the word GO.
Emphasis all his. Actually, this comment completely proves my point. Apparently, he thought so, too, because this one followed immediately: (We'll get back to this first comment shortly.)
|::::::::|| Bush was too busy rattling sabers and strutting around telling the world how he was going to "get Saddam". Too bad he didn't think about the all-too obvious fact that people don't like occupiers in their homeland. And that we might need adequate armor.|
You want agreement that the slimeballs who are cutting off heads are lower than dirt that deserve to be exterminated? SURE. I'll agree. There! Happy now?? Got any ideas how we're supposed to tell the enemy from the civilians, yet? Or are we going to take a page from that good old Papal legate Arnaud-Amaury: "Slay them all. God will know his own."
Emphasis again his. I guess I should mention I'm Catholic and Bob's not. Hence the reference to Arnaud-Amaury, Abbot of Citeaux. Of course, like most of the chop-busting commentary directed at me over my religion these days, the reference deals with an utterance in a war that happened 795 years ago. (No, I'm not kidding. The event was in the year 1209. Look it up.) Nothing like holding a grudge for an event one wasn't even present for, but I guess it's a good thing Bob's religion teaches complete tolerance of other religions or he might be tossing centuries-old comments in my face so he can dig at both my politics and religion in the same shot.
However, his second comment pretty much proves my point yet again. Sure, he "agrees" that the terrorists cutting people's heads off should be exterminated. (Note: that's a comment I never made and a suggestion I never put forward.) Of course, he does it in such a fashion that pretty much makes it sound like he's yelling agreement to disagree. And he'll only do that after launching the standard anti-Bush rhetoric and the standard left-wing mantra that our soldiers are occupiers rather than partners with the Iraqi government's forces. In this comment, it's not Abu Ghraib that he'll play up, it's his perception of President Bush "strutting" around and the aforementioned soldiers-are-occupiers thing that he puts up there to offset the terrorists' activities. Tossed in a comment about the armor, too, just to reinforce the image that administration - excuse me; "BushCo" - presents an equivalent badness as the murder of non-combatants by beheading. It is this absolute refusal to simply make a statement that really condemns the terrorists' actions without condition or offset that was the entire point of my post.
Now, back to that first comment. Taking this comment as representative of left's position, I'm understanding this to mean that the left can't make such an unequivocal condemnation because they don't feel that the right has made a reciprocating condemnation. Let's examine that. I myself have said here on this blog that the actions of those soldiers at Abu Ghraib were wrong. I said it right here, as a matter of fact. Others have said so plainly, and I'm talking about the right-wing, here. Blackfive and other milbloggers have consistently said the soldiers were clearly in the wrong and have even suggested that the sentence recently passed out to SPC Graner was too light.
About the "fact... FACT that this war isn't being fought the way it should have been because our leadership fucked it up from the word GO," however, presupposes that I agree that it's a fact. Any student of military actions cannot possibly look at the major combat part of the Iraq invasion and say that it was done poorly. To say that that part of the war wasn't fought the way it should have been is to ignore the complete success of the operation. There were soldiers killed, as in any war. The number dead on our side was kept to the minimum it was by virtue of excellent planning, training, and leadership and I refuse to concede anything but. The urban fighting that went on in Fallujah last month produced a victorious result with so few Coalition soldiers killed that the entire operation will be taught for decades as the ideal in that kind of combat environment. Again, the planning and execution of the operation was excellent as was the leadership and again I will not say otherwise. These things are part of the war, so to say that it's been "fucked up" from the word go is not true, ergo not fact. Consequently, I will not say anything about it except to say that it's not a fact.
Now, on to wider events, I certainly can say something. I believe 100% that mistakes have been made in our prosecution of this war, no doubt. There seems to be some question about who was responsible for the lack of body armor for our troops, the government or the suppliers. Both of those groups have a vested interest in blaming the other for the mess, so I can't understand why anyone would immediately side with either party on that question. Same for the Humvee armor. Of course, no army anywhere in the world and at any time has ever gone to war with the kind and quantity of armor American forces have available to them today. It's the modern obsession with absolute safety in all endeavors that presses some folks to think that any protection less than that which would allow our soldiers to stand motionless and unharmed amid 50-caliber machine-gun fire is insufficient. Sending our soldiers to battle with such "insufficiencies" is viewed as an intentional carelessness on the part of our government and that's where the emphasis on the armor question stems from.
I believe 100% that decisions were made that were completely wrong and I still think so today. Under no circumstances should any American soldier be required to hold his counter-fire because his enemy has decided to shoot at him from a mosque. The second an attack is launched from one of those mosques, it's a free target and should have been treated as such. Not the 10th time it happened, not after 3 strikes, but the very first time and every single time thereafter. Want to know why we keep finding huge weapon stockpiles in mosques? Because the terrorists know it's safe to put them there. Happened in Fallujah, Najaf, and Mosul and it will continue to happen for so long as this stupid policy of holding back when the building happens to be a mosque is followed. It was and remains a mistake. (Would I feel the same way if a bunch of Catholic terrorists holed up in St. Peter's in the Vatican and was taking pot-shots at American servicemen? You betcha.)
Speaking of Najaf, I am still stunned at the HUGE mistake of letting Al Sadr set the agenda there back in early 2004. He was given ultimatums, he made promises. In reply, he flipped everyone the bird and broke his promises, repeatedly. That he was allowed to leave Najaf and set up shop elsewhere where we had to go through it all over again was just plain dumb. And the first time the Marines were set to go into Fallujah they should have been sent. Instead, those same Marines and Army units had to go into Fallujah months later and attempt to clear out that same enemy who had had months to prepare and to terrorize the local civilian populace. Whoever made that decision is shy a few bulbs on the tree.
Rumsfeld should resign. There have been enough reports from milbloggers and members of the military that I know personally to say that the perception is that Rumsfeld does not listen to his battlefield commanders. In a chain of command that large, perception is quite a bit. To be honest, I'm not sure whether he didn't listen to his people or not nor am I completely convinced he's hosed things up at all, let alone as badly as the left is saying he has. But that's irrelevant. The war is about issues bigger than one man and at the Pentagon, it's said that no one's irreplaceable. Like it or not, responsible for the mistakes or not, Rumsfeld is a lightning rod and we can't afford that. He should step down. That President Bush didn't accept his resignation when everyone else turned theirs in was a mistake on his part. The President, of all people, should have known that perception is everything where his efforts are concerned. He made a mistake here.
Kind of an addendum to my last point, Rumsfeld should have moved to increase troop strength back in 2002 when it was being considered. He didn't. Mistake. If he doesn't move to correct the error by pulling our troops out of such countries as Germany and South Korea, that would be another mistake, in my opinion.
So, yes, I do think mistakes have been made. This is likely not the declaration the left is looking for, of course, but I don't believe the war, as a whole, is a giant mistake so they shouldn't hang around waiting for the comment. What having our media and our left not join in the unequivocal condemnation of the terrorists and, most specifically, their methods does is to create a false impression that those methods are OK with them. By pinning those non-equivalent offenses to the beheadings and general civilian terror tactics, they create the impression that those methods are justified, understandable, and reasonable. That's not right and that's what I said.